Hi, I'm Noah; I am 18 years old, from Germany and currently volunteering for SYHA Hostelling Scotland. I came here in September 2016 and will stay until the end of August, so the whole experience will be almost a year long. Along with me are 8 other German volunteers, helping out in SYHA youth hostels across Scotland.
You might ask what motivates us to work as a volunteer for the SYHA. Well, most of us simply didn't know what to do after school. To study or not to study, that was the question that we couldn't really answer and even if there was an answer, it followed up with another question, ‘what do I want to study?’
We were all looking for something to bridge the time we would take to make up our mind. While at the same time, doing something sensible and gaining work experience. Now, after more than 270 days in Scotland, we can look back at experiences, challenges, places and people. All were more interesting, beautiful and engaging than we could have imagined.
I started my voluntary work at Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel, located at the edge of Loch Lomond. To access the youth hostel you have to come in by a small road or a ferry that arrives twice a day. But the surrounding landscapes are definitely worth the effort of getting there. That's why you mostly see hikers on their journey on the West Highland Way or occasionally mountaineers heading for Ben Lomond.
Working there was the best start to my year that I could imagine. The staff there introduced me to the work you do in a youth hostel. I didn't feel like a volunteer that was there to do the dirty, annoying jobs that nobody else wants to do. I felt like a valuable member of staff who was being treated equally and fair. In addition to the great staff, the beautiful nature around the area made it easy to enjoy my time there. The environment and my photography passion literally forced me to go outside (and yes, of course I went up Ben Lomond, can't miss that view).
One pretty important point about being a volunteer with SYHA is that you change the youth hostel that you work in every three months (sometimes a bit earlier, sometimes a bit later, depending on the circumstances).
So next I went to work at Stirling Youth Hostel after working in Rowardennan Lodge. Stirling was a completely different experience. First of all the location, Stirling Youth Hostel isn't in a remote location, thus making it a lot easier to shop for groceries, which I really appreciated even though I did miss being surrounded by nature. The staff in Stirling was really friendly as well, working there felt like being part of a little family. Stirling as a city has its tourist attractions, e.g. the Wallace Monument that we climbed up.
My next location was Inverness, my favourite spot was down by the River Ness, you are blessed with some beautiful vies, many Victorian style bridges, small streams and many possibilities for some nice walks in the greens with water around. The Inverness Youth Hostel is one of my favorites so far, the staff was friend and helpful and they also provide volunteers with a flat.
Having a flat was just awesome. Having your own kitchen enables you to cook and store your food without having to disturb the guests in the self-catering kitchen. Your own living room gives you a place to chill out when you need some time on your own. I was also joined by another of our volunteers, we had a great time in Inverness and we're both still missing it. Generally, I was really lucky when it came to company; I had another volunteer staying and working with me in two out of four youth hostels which really makes working a lot more fun.
Eventually, I had to move away from Inverness, it was hard to leave them, but I continued my SYHA journey to Glasgow. The first thing that I noticed when arriving at the Glasgow Youth Hostel, was the beautiful building. The wooden stucco, pillars and stairs (up to the 3rd floor), together with the narrow, long hallways and the nice lounge really makes for a cosy atmosphere. Working here was surprisingly exhausting since I started here when the "season" kicked in, meaning that there are many big groups and individuals checking in and out, making the days busier than what I had been used to.
In the other youth hostels, more than 30 checkouts a day was pretty rare but as Glasgow it happens regularly. From the start the staff at Glasgow made me feel like an important member of staff. I also think that Glasgow helps a lot with fulfilling one of my initial goals, to work with and get to know people from many different nations. I had some nice experiences with guests, for example a group inviting me to have a drink with them. Talking about drinks, Glasgow is known as the nightlife city in Scotland.
I'm looking forward to my next and last youth hostel, Glasgow Metro, mainly because there will be two other volunteers staying with me, I'm sure we'll have a great time together. For now, I will continue enjoying my time in Glasgow Youth Hostel. I will also take some days off to see some of the other volunteers in the other hostels. That is another advantage of being a volunteer: you get SYHA-related benefits such as discounts for you and your friends or free nights when staying in hostels.
The work with SYHA has been a great time so far and I'm sure that will stay like that for the rest of my time. There have been challenges, not only small ones, with guests and with members of staff alike, but eventually, we always managed. The practical experience that you gain here can't be replaced by studies, it is invaluable.
And if you don't join us as a volunteer in the future, maybe we will see you as a guest some time?